There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the well known runny nose. One kind of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that goes into one or both ears. While you might generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be disregarded.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly linked to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some congestion in your ears during a cold. This blockage is often alleviated when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never disregard pain in your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will cause inflammation. The immune system responds to the cold by creating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So a person with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you are sleeping on your side.
This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could cost you
Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. It’s not unusual for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. A patient may not even remember to mention that they’re experiencing actual ear pain. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be treated promptly to avoid more damage.
Many individuals who experience pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to discover that the ear pain remains. Most people typically decide to consult a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Permanent hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more true with people who get ear infections frequently.
Over time, hearing clarity is impacted by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were once restricted to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can permanently damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more significant cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You might need to have a blockage professionally removed if this is the case. If you have sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, there are treatment solutions, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.